By Bobby Reed | Published December 2020
Tango tunes and Bix Beiderbecke compositions are two seemingly disparate ingredients that blend together beautifully on Candlelight—Love In The Time Of Cholera, the new duo album by classical violinist Juliet Kurtzman and jazz pianist Pete Malinverni. The 12-track program showcases exquisite melodic lines from both instrumentalists, as well as brilliant bouts of dialog.
Acclaimed as an educator and a specialist in the intersection of jazz and sacred music traditions, Malinverni takes a secular route for Candlelight, interpreting two songs by tango icons—Carlos Gardel’s “Por Una Cabeza” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion”—and composing two tangos himself, “Pulcinella” and “Love In The Time Of Cholera.”
The program includes five songs by Beiderbecke, a DownBeat Hall of Famer widely revered for his work on cornet, but who also composed four works for piano: “In A Mist,” “Candlelights,” “In The Dark” and “Flashes.” In addition to spacious arrangements of those songs, Kurtzman and Malinverni apply their refined approach to “Davenport Blues,” a standard first recorded in 1925 by Beiderbecke’s sextet Bix & His Rhythm Jugglers.
Despite this emphasis on Beiderbecke tunes—as well as the inclusion of Scott Joplin’s “Solace”—Kurtzman and Malinverni don’t play ragtime music. Their shared aesthetic is one born in the 21st century, an approach that dually exploits the emotional resonance of jazz and the keen precision of classical music.
On the duo’s reading of “In The Dark,” Kurtzman’s playing evokes the intricacy of human speech. Elsewhere, a lively interpretation of Brazilian choro master Jacob do Bandolim’s “Dôce De Coco” finds Kurtzman gracefully breaking out of the confines of classical performance, while still showing off the chops that landed her onstage at Carnegie Hall. The rendition of “In A Mist” demonstrates both players’ ability to intensify the impact of a melody by handling tempo with a wondrous elasticity. Malinverni, who cites Piazzolla as a key influence, has teamed with Kurtzman to craft an album that has a degree of the irresistible, heart-piercing emotive quality of his hero’s finest works.